Neil Lennon has today stated that some of his Celtic players worryingly told him they were deflated after a Ross County goal at the weekend.
The Hoops were knocked out of the Betfred Cup in pathetic fashion after Ross Stewart and Alex Iacovitti provided two blows to the gut at Parkhead.
What was even more concerning for Celtic fans than the goals scored, however, was the lack of fight in the performance. After Stewart’s opener from the penalty spot in the first half, there was a galling lack of genuine goalscoring opportunities created, with County ending the match having managed two more shots on target (BBC).
And the lack of fight shown was symbolised today when Lennon explained the unusual reaction of some of his players to one of the Staggies’ goals at an empty Celtic Park.
Speaking at his pre-match presser for AC Milan on Celtic TV, Lennon said: “It’s a difficult time because of the results and we know we’re better than that. So that’s the point we’re trying to make to the players – to try and find their extra zest.
“When the goal went in on Sunday a few of them came to me and said they have deflated afterwards. That’s not normal for them – that’s not like them. So our reaction to whether we go a goal down tomorrow or future games, we have to react better in certain areas and with certain individuals.
“But they’re human beings. They’re coming under a lot of criticism themselves. Life’s not normal for them at the minute, so that’s all something that they’re trying to adapt and get used to as well. It’s got be a concerted effort.”
Identifying what’s going on here quickly is essential
It’s difficult to know what to make of that from the manager. Not he, the players, and certainly not us as supporters can say with certainty what’s exactly going on here.
Yes, many of us will say the blame rests solely with the manager, and so it does given he’s responsible for all things to do with what goes on out on the pitch. But when it comes to the finer details – actually identifying what aspect of the football club is holding us down – continues to be a mystery.
There are slumps and then there are nightmares. Celtic are currently going through the latter. This can no longer be described as a bad run of form or a little hiccup in our season. What this is can only be described as utterly disastrous.
Usually when you’re going through a slump you can pinpoint where it’s going wrong. A few defensive mistakes perhaps. Maybe you’re lacking a proper number 10. Perhaps the striker needs a partner to get the goals going again. For Celtic – it’s a culmination of all of that which has created one massive crisis.
When we’re discussing the way forward, so long as Celtic stick by Lennon, all we can ever really do is move on to the next game and try to eek out a result. This does feel like a crisis that will end with a few wins and perhaps a big result somewhere.
Can Celtic pull one out of the hat at the San Siro in tomorrow night’s Europa League dead-rubber? Time will tell.